According to the protest organizers, there were actions at at least 97 Applebee's in 43 states on Saturday, and it appears that there were over 1,000 particpants in total. You can see many more pictures and news articles at the Yahoo group set up to organize the protests.
I had a great time our little nurse-in at the Applebee's in Chicopee, Massachusetts. There were just six of us (including one dad, two kids), but we had a very good chat with the assistant manager.
Leah, whose baby is pictured to the right, had talked with the manager over the phone before the nurse-in, and he said that their restaurant wouldn't ask a nursing mother to cover up. He said that if they ever got a complaint from other patrons they'd offer to reseat the people who complained. Another representative of Applebee's said the same thing in an interview in our local paper. I thought that this might be due to the fact that (as we learned) he's the father of a breastfed baby. But this statement in a news report from Applebee's makes me think that they have have had a change of heart because of the protests:
Our goal as restaurant operators is to provide a great dining experience for all our guests. This situation has provided an opportunity for us to work with our associates to ensure we're making nursing mothers feel welcome....we will also accommodate other guest who would be more comfortable moving to another area of the restaurant. [Thanks to Angela for this link.]
Later that day I saw a local production of the play, Birth, which is part of a larger movement to improve maternity care. It was devastating and uplifting, and powerful indictment of the state of birth in the U.S.
The play began with some of the characters talking about watching their dogs birth their puppies. They talk about knowing how important it is to leave the mother dog in peace during the labor and not intervene. And one of them says something like, "everyone knows not to take a newborn puppy away from its mother."
After the play there was a panel discussion, and one of audience members talked about how surprised she was to find, twelve years after having her own son, that things haven't really changed. I mumbled to the friend sitting next to me, "Actually, it's gotten worse." I'll get back to this topic another time...